Kazakhstan: Regime plans to cancel 2012 presidential elections

Parliament rubberstamps ‘referendum’ to postpone election until 2020

Just weeks after the end of the notorious Summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Astana, Kazakhstan, which the Nazarbayev regime used in order to portray itself as a respected member of the world community, on the 24 December 2010, the Kazakhstan parliament showed itself to be nothing more than a rubber stamp for the president himself. It passed a law paving the way for the cancellation of the 2012 Presidential elections, leaving Nazarbayev in power until 2020.

Nazarbayev feigned modesty over the parliament’s decision, announcing that he would place a veto on the law. This is what he did earlier last this year with the “Leader of the Nation” Law, which gave him and his family immunity from prosecution for life. But the parliament, that time and again this time, found a way of countering his ‘veto’.

Their tactic, on this occasion, obviously with the approval of the “Leader of the Nation”, is to call a national referendum. This normally requires the signatures of 200,000 electors. The referendum initiative was quickly recognised by the Central Electoral Commission. It took just a week (over the New Year) for the initiators (from Nazarbayev’s own party) to gather three million signatures! The ‘yellow’ (pro-government) trade unions, the state bureaucracy and pro-regime NGOs all took part in this farce, talking about “the need for stability” and allowing the president to “complete his historic mission as Leader of the Nation”. The pro-government press argues that this referendum is a far more democratic form of rule than an election.

It is now likely that the referendum will be held in March, giving no time for any opposition to mobilise. It will obviously be completely fraudulent, with the votes for Nazarbayev collected in just the same way as the current signatures have been collected – by threatening all those who work for the state and private business that if they do not vote they will be sacked. (Private business is fully behind Nazarbayev. After all, he restored capitalism for them). A shortfall will undoubtedly be made up by ballot box stuffing.  

Regime sees ‘Kazakhstan 2012’ as real enemy

All this demonstrates how worried the ruling elite are about at the elections. The Leader of the Nation is no longer sure he can keep things under control and fears that the 2012 election itself could provoke something like what happened in Kyrgyzstan, last year, which saw mass uprisings. But social and political tensions are growing, unemployment is increasing and prices are shooting up. The political spin doctors around Nazarbayev are concerned that if a second wave of crisis develops or social unrest develops out of control, then they will need an unfettered dictatorship based around Nazarbayev.  They have unwittingly identified those as who they see as the real enemy by naming the “coalition of democratic forces” they have set up to organise the referendum as “Kazakhstan 2020”. This mimics ‘Kazakhstan 2012’ – the broad, genuine opposition body set up by CWI supporters and uniting almost all the social protest and independent trade unions in the country.

The political process is developing, class struggle is growing and splits in the ruling class are becoming sharper. After the initial surprise of many people at the announcement of the referendum, these processes are likely to develop further. It has already proved impossible to contain the struggle between different sections of the ruling elite over resources and wealth. The referendum will be used by the president’s clique as another tool to force away competitors, concentrating even more power in his hands and those around him.

The CWI in Kazakhstan, Socialist Resistance, and the Kazakhstan 2012 movement are completely opposed to this attempt to cancel the presidential elections in 2012 and will be working to build the maximum possible mobilisation to oppose this farcical ‘referendum’.

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January 2011